If you’re a public school teacher you are likely facing (or bracing for) some big changes in the coming years. If your state has adopted the new common core standards (and only four have not), you will soon have to learn and teach this new set of standards. If you have a new set of standards, you will have new or revised curricula, including new scope and sequence and rubrics that perhaps you will help to develop. You will be introduced to new assessments with new technologies and new scoring systems. You will have to understand these new norms and new procedures and new measures of student progress, and explain them to parents. As you are doing this, students will still show up each day to learn to read, or to write a brief constructed response, or to do geometry. They will bring with them their special needs, behaviors, and problems, and you will try to inspire, motivate and coach them as you teach, because you know they need all of this to be what we now call “college and career ready.”
You probably know how much you matter to your students. But you also know that this bigger-than-average reform wave that’s crashing into schools and teachers won’t change what kids face outside of school (which is most of their school-age lives—for every hour in school, most kids spend 6 or 7 outside of school). Even if it all goes right—and standards and curriculum and assessments make it to the classrooms and improve instruction—you know you can’t do prenatal care, or provide housing assistance, or treat parents struggling with drug addiction, or counsel children who are victims of violence or other traumas. And you know these things matter too, and will be the difference between “ready” or not.
So how accountable are schools and teachers for outcomes that are not really “academic” but certainly matter for academic success? There is no arguing that great schools and teachers have a huge influence on the life trajectory of kids, and that they should be expected and required to show that they are doing right by the students and families they serve. But schools and teachers can’t be solely accountable for these outcomes. In most communities, and particularly in urban areas, schools are one of many institutions that serve families and children. And in many places, these two worlds—in-school and out-of-school—are finding a way to “share” accountability and, in doing so, increase the chances that students will be successful. We’ve highlighted one such place—Cincinnati and neighboring communities in Northern Kentucky—that is holding its schools along with hundreds of other civic groups, businesses, nonprofits and public agencies accountable for a broad set of shared outcomes. It’s not easy work but it’s the future of accountability systems that recognize that school reform will not reach children if it stays safely apart from the rest of kids’ lives.
Read the full report here.